Some of the questions answered below
Parts of the Flute
The top part of all flutes, this is the piece that flautists blow into to create the sound. Often made of solid silver, the material used impacts the sound greatly, deciding the overall character of the tone. As well, the headjoint features the tuning cork which is used to further adjust the tone of the flute.
Containing most keys, the center piece is the biggest part of every flute.
Also containing several keys, the footjoint is the shortest part of the flute. The standard student foot is a C foot, while you'll find a B foot on most professional models.
Crafted specifically with first-time players in mind, these flutes are constructed to help guide students while endorse good playing practices. Usually these flutes feature a nickel construction with silver-plated plateau keys, as well as an offset G and a C footjoint. Some teachers will even request an open-hole flute or a flute with the split E design.
When a flautist is ready to move up to the next level, they typically upgrade to intermediate flutes which are crafted to help advance their skills even further. Often referred to as "performance," "step-up," or "conservatory" flutes, these instruments usually have a solid silver headjoint and either a silver or silver-plated body and footjoint. Also, intermediate flutes frequently have a B footjoint by contrast, as well as open-hold keys with in-line G keys, although offset G keys are becoming more popular.
Designed and constructed with professional musicians in mind, professional flutes are high-end instruments made with fine materials and detailed craftsmanship. Generally, professional flutes are crafted with open holes and solid (sterling) silver head, body, and foot joints. Many professional flutes are handmade to very tight tolerances for maximum performance.
Extremely durable and used because it resists dents, this material still produces a beautiful tone, making it perfect for the flute. Usually paired with silver-plating, nickel silver is even used on some intermediate flute keys giving it a more sturdy construction without weighing it down.
Solid (Sterling) Silver
With a warm, dark, focused tone and a clean response, solid silver is heavier than nickel silver making it the preferred choice for intermediate and professional flautists. One thing to note, solid silver also requires greater handling to in order to keep it in top playing condition, so it's not suited for novice players that may not be as careful.
Mostly found on student flutes, nickel is extremely durable and is easy to look after. And because it's lighter in weight than most other materials, it produced a much brighter sound. It's also a great alternative for those allergic to silver.
Darkening the sound with its heavier weight, and adding a beautifully lustrous finish to the apperance, almost all flutes are silver-plated.
If you aren't interested in nickel, gold is a fantastic, elegant alternative. Gold also provides added traction for the bottom lip, helping newer musicians with fast passages. With a colorful and warm tone, as well as a versatile range, gold is also the preferred choice for many professional musicians.
Key Positioning Options
Most used on student flutes, plateau-style keys are designed for those looking for less involved fingering techniques. As well, plateau flutes are usually crafted with an "offset" G key in order to create a more natural feel for beginners.
Also referred to as the "open-hole" model, French keys are distinctly designed with open holes in five of the center keys. This allows for a clearer, louder sound, as well as less obstructive airflow.
French keys also let musician use "half-holing", a technique which, when covering only half the key hole, allows you to bend sharp notes. This is especially important for jazz and improvisational musicians.
Offset or Inline G
Allowing the G key to be played with the third finger of the left hand, this key becomes "in line" with the other keys, producing a better overall sound. The G key can also be somewhat "offset" outward making it easier to reach for musicians with smaller hands.
French/Pointed or "Y" Arms
If you're searching for sturdiness in your flute's arms, "Y" arms are the preferred choice. On the other hand, if you're more interested in key placement, fluidity and pad sealing, you'll appreciate the French or pointed arms.
This enhances intonation and provides response better than the high E, a note which creates problems on most flutes.
Embouchure (Lip) Plate
With a variety of shapes and sizes, every flautist prefers something different so finding one that's comfortable for you is extremely beneficial.
Alternatively known as the "chimney", this piece connects the lip plate and the head. The weight directly affects the tone, with heavier materials producing a darker sound.
Made to hold the keys in place when not in use, stainless steel is the most widely used material because of its long-lasting durability. If you're an advanced flautist though, you may prefer the more delicate feel of white gold.